Beginning with an examination of ‘The Voice’, consider some of the ways in which Hardy gives poetic expression to his personal grief.
Throughout much of Hardy’s poetry there are various different connotations of grief presented, whether it is grievance for his late wife Emma or the diverse accounts of war that are shown. The poetic expressions of these poems provoke emotion to the reader and help them to relate to Hardy’s personal grief in some way.
One of the poems where this effect is apparent is ‘The Voice’. The extended metaphor of the wind has taken the naturalistic entity of the wind and changed it into Emma’s voice haunting him and thus personifying it to be Emma. The wind also creates an idea of Hardy’s longing for her to return to him, this is portrayed by the way Hardy creates the effect of an echo, ‘call to me, call to me’ not only does the repetition demonstrate an echo it also helps the reader to grasp the fact that Hardy feels hopeless in his searching for Emma, as whatever he does he will not be able to retrieve her. This poetic expression of the wind is displayed with various free and loose punctuation to create the idea of Emma being now free and changeable, like the wind itself, ‘ you had changed from the one who was all to me’ she is now illusive and cannot be seen, causing Hardy’s grief to increase as it is shown in the poem that he will not be able to see her again.
The way in which the poem is written shows an obvious regret, this was that Hardy took what he had with Emma whilst she was alive for granted and now she is no longer around her loss has reawakened his romance with her and he now sees her as he did when they first met, which he knows, is now too late. He sees he in the ‘air-blue gown’ that he did when he first met her, however, this also has another meaning, of how Emma is now all around and immortal, however, even though she is all around the grief of the situation is that Hardy can never see her. Knowing this, Hardy goes on to say that he will continue ‘faltering forward’ as he knows that Emma is ‘being ever dissolved’, like the wind, her spirit is fading away. Comparing Emma with the wind shows how Hardy feels and how he senses that she is fading away from him, enhancing his grief and heartache.
Throughout ‘The Voice’ the poetic expression of nature haunting Hardy as though Emma has turned into the wind and has turned into ‘the woman calling’, creating the sense of insistence, that perhaps Emma wants Hardy to continue his search for her memory. The metaphor the wind presents shows that it has a hold over Hardy and also the power to move him, this emphasises his personal grief as he shows is helplessness due to the fact that no matter how hard he tried to recapture Emma’s memory, he will never get her back.
Similarly to ‘The Voice’, ‘ Beeny Cliff’ also mourns Emma’s loss and shows Hardy’s personal grief over this fact. However in this poem it seems apparent that Hardy reluctantly accepts that Emma has gone and however hard he tries to reconnect to her, this wish will never come true. The poem itself begins with a regretful yearning tone that continues throughout, ‘O the opal and sapphire of that wandering western sea’ the opening to the poem of ‘O’ creates a yearning emotion that sets a theme for the rest of the poem, it is made very obvious that Hardy misses Emma’s presence and the description of the precious stones, ‘opal and sapphire’ reflect upon Hardy’s precious memories of his wife, however memories are all he has, which shows the grief given through his poetic expression as all he has left of Emma are his memories. He then continues to show his regret, ‘ the woman whom I loved so, and who loyally loved me’ this perhaps shows Hardy’s regret towards not showing Emma his true feelings towards her whilst she was alive, and also how he felt that she ‘loyally loved’ him, yet he did not show the same loyalty.
Throughout the first three stanzas of the poem, it seems as thought Hardy is trying to elicit the emotion of memory so that he can bring back the happiness he felt when he was with Emma at ‘Beeny Cliff’. He uses various poetic expressions, for example, describing the scene to encapsulate the beauty of that day as to them both at the time it was idyllic, ‘ the waves seemed far away’ this however doesn’t just help the reader understand the way the scene appeared, but also the atmosphere itself. It seemed as though their love for each other transported them so they were unaware of the world around them. The grief that Hardy now feels causes the day he is describing to become even more tragic as it seems he will never be that happy again.
After Hardy has tried to recapture Emma’s memory and realises that it will not work as no matter how much he tries to remember that day and how much he retells his feelings and regrets about Emma the memories of her will never bring her back to him. It is after this realisation that Hardy moves on to speak about how Emma has in fact gone from his life, and he knows this and describes a divide between them now, using the metaphor of the cliff itself, ‘bulks old Beeny to the sky’ shows how there is barrier between the two. The description of the cliff’s ‘chasmal’, which are the splits in the rocks are perhaps metaphorical to Hardy and Emma’s relationship as it is now, and the barrier between life and death that forever puzzles Hardy.
From this point on there is obvious wistful regret that Hardy will never be back at that place of beauty with Emma, however he then realises that all Beeny is, is a cliff and that no matter how much Hardy tries to reawaken that day there with Emma it will not bring her back. Hardy’s grief and heartache is apparent as he is tired of wondering where Emma is then therefore no longer questions this, and merely accepts that ‘the woman is- elsewhere-‘ the poetic expression of this phrase shows Hardy’s pause whilst he is thinking about where Emma actually is, and it also creates the idea that he doesn’t know where she is but he does know he can never find her, illuminating his grief as he has now accepted the fact that he will never find Emma anywhere, even where he feels her memory is at its strongest. The ending of this poem also reflects how Hardy feels, as Emma ‘nor knows, nor cares for Beeny, and will laugh there nevermore.’ Hardy’s grief is again emphasised as he will never recapture Emma as she is now completely indifferent to the word and her life with Hardy, and this allows him to finally accept that Emma is gone and finished, it is almost as though this revelation has given Hardy a sense of finality to his situation.
In conclusion, Hardy uses many different ways to give poetic expression to his personal grief, ranging from personifying nature to represent Emma to finally allowing himself to believe that she is gone, and knowing that all he now has are his memories, and that no matter how hard he tries, they will never bring Emma back, which Hardy has finally accepted, no matter how much grief and anguish it may have caused him.